My work-travel mission started again at the end of May 2016, and this time Northern Thailand again. But what really excited me more was that, it was the destination I had never been, a lesser known town of Phayao, called Chiang Kham. Once I was there, I understood why Chiang Kham is deserved to be “The Hidden Gem of the North”. Pretty much like Mae Hong Son, slow life is the concept, slow and relaxing, and even an off-the-beaten-track route. Chiang Kham, is just about an hour drive from Chiang Rai, an hour from Phayao town, and about 3 hours from Chiang Mai, as well as about 2.30 or 3 hours from Nan. The town has many interesting sites to enjoy and relax, and definitely yes, I totally had a great time there.
First, I explored Rico Resort, where I spent two nights. Rico Resort is a “chillaxing” boutique accommodation hidden among the natural setting of rice fields, and here is where their guests can get healthy and really experience deep culture of Thailand. The resort has 16 rooms separated into two zones of villa (two villas) and resort. Each villa is available with three bedrooms, living area, dining zone, and kitchen with full amenities, as well as balcony overlooking the panoramic view of rice fields and mountains of Phu Langka. One bedroom is separated with a private bathroom, connecting to kitchen. The other two bedrooms are connecting with a shared bathroom. A tennis court, a swimming pool, and a small fitness are also available in the villa zone. Located a bit away from the villa within a walking distance or a very short bike ride, the resort zone has two storeys, and all rooms are comfortable, spacious, and big beds. Each room allows up to 4 people at the maximum. This zone is available with a restaurant, and two tennis courts, and a large garden to relax. Bicycles are also available to use for free. Rico Resort is perfect for families, a small group, and those who are looking for true relaxation and slow life. One good thing about the resort is that health is important, so every meal is served with healthy dishes. Free wifi all over the place.
The resort also offers cycling trips in and around Chiang Kham, for both full day and half day.
The half day cycling trip, taking about 10 km, includes a few stops. The first stop is Thai Lue Weaving House, where we met Grandmom Saengda, 87, interesting life with the art of weaving from the past till today. The second stop, continuing on bike ride, is Wat Nantalam, a beautiful Burmese style teak wood temple which some zone is designed for a small museum of antique collection. The last bike stop, one of the highlights, is Wat Phra That Doi Kham, where we walked up the Naga stairs to the temple. Beautiful view up here and even can enjoy the sunset of the day. Visiting around late afternoon is an opportunity to experience monks chanting as well. The trip ends at Pha Daeng Bat Cave, as part of Phu Sang National Park, but from the temple, we transferred by van, about 20 km from town. The area is quite off the beaten track in the natural setting of rice and corn fields, and lush mountains. Crossed a small wooden bridge to the entrance of the cave, walked with flashlight inside, saw some more highlights besides thousands of bats – a huge limestone right in the middle of the cave and a small Buddha image. Sunset over the sky can be viewed here.
The full day cycling trip is a bit longer distance about 16 km, but quite an easy ride on the flat routing. The trip started at the back road of the resort, riding through rice fields for about 2 km. Sunny day during summer time, and for sure muddy during rainy season. Made a few stops at some beautiful temples in town – Wat Phra Kaew, one of the oldest temples housing the Emerald Buddha for an unknown period of time, and Wat Don Chai, where the biggest Bodhi tree is located and filled with Buddhism story. Continued cycling on the main road to the outskirt of Chiang Kham, heading towards Ban Phii community, passing rice and corn fields along the way, until reaching Community Jungle, a preserved environmental zone with pure nature and as an education center about environment. Good place for cycling and soft trekking. Cycling through for about 10-15 min, and trekking loop about 1.30 hr. Recommend to wear mosquito repellent. Lunch at a local restaurant included in this tour. After lunch, rode to another oldest temple of Chiang Kham, Wat Phra Nang Din, highlighting Buddha images in a sitting position. Just right across the temple is located a fresh afternoon market. The day ends.
Cycling gears (helmet, gloves, and glasses) and drinking water are provided by Rico Resort, and the trips are led by their own staff at the Resort.
It was a wonderful trip that was combined with a half day in Phayao – Wat Analayo, the hilltop temple up on Doi Bussarakam, only accessible by car or van, but not bus or coach.
If you are looking to stay away from the busy crowd, Chiang Kham is your perfect choice…